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Coming heat puts pets at risk outside, in cars

Tucson temperatures are rising, so pet owners need to be aware of the dangers of leaving their animals exposed to the heat. The Pima Animal Care Center has advice on how to keep pets cool, and where to report animal abuse or neglect.

PACC’s Animal Protection Service officers get hundreds of calls each year about pets being left in vehicles, outside, or in other situations where a pet is in danger of dying or suffering illnesses from heat.

Leaving a pet in a car is dangerous; “even with the windows cracked, the interior temperature can become deadly within just a couple of minutes,” PACC spokeswoman Nikki Reck said.

If you spot an animal that's in danger because it's locked in a hot vehicle, it's now legal to break a window to rescue it. Arizona passed a "Good Samaritan" law in 2017 to allow people to save children and pets at risk of physical injury or death from being locked in a car.

In order to not be at risk of being sued, a person can use reasonable force to remove a child or animal from a locked motor vehicle only if they have a good faith belief that the confined person or pet is in imminent danger of injury or death if they are not rescued. The rescuer must determine that the vehicle is locked and there is no other way to remove the child or pet, and call law enforcement or animal control before taking action.

The rescuer must remain with the pet or person until the authorities arrive, and can use no "more force than necessary under the circumstances to enter the motor vehicle."

Even outside a vehicle, the heat poses threats to animals. Owners should keep pets indoors — "there’s no better place to avoid the heat," Reck said. Pets left outside need to be kept hydrated and shaded, she advised. The law requires that pets have drinking water available at all times.

Avoid burning their paws on hot roads and sidewalks by walking your pet in the early morning, or in the evening after the asphalt has cooled down, she said.

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Pet owners can test the ground by placing the back of your hand on the ground for five seconds. “If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet’s paw pads,” she said.

The county agency investigates complaints of neglect and cruelty. To report issues such as a pet trapped in a vehicle, call Pima County Animal Protection Services at 520-724-5900, extension 4.

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